Rachel Campos-Duffy has worn many hats since her days on the Real World: San Francisco — a reality TV franchise on which her future husband, former congressman Sean Duffy, also appeared — but she is most proud of being a mom of nine. Though she has a full house, she is far from slowing down after recently being named the newest co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend on Fox News.
Even as she is riding high with this new opportunity, Campos-Duffy tells Yahoo Life that her love for her family continues to keep her grounded.
What has it been like juggling nine kids, particularly during the pandemic?
So in some ways it was easier because when we were on lockdown, there was a lot of us, so I didn't feel like I had to entertain with my kids as much because they were entertaining each other. And they were each other's playmates whereas I have friends whose kids were only the child or there's two children, but they were really separated in age. And so I think that was really hard for a lot of kids. But I think my kids kind of had that part easier because they have a ton of playmates in the house.
I know they were lucky that [they] went to school in the fall and they only had those first couple of months last spring to deal with Zoom and that sort of thing, and then they were back at school.
What things have helped you as a family during this difficult time?
I think isolation has been really hard for a lot of people and being a big family, it’s not as much of an issue for us obviously. And so I think that's been good for us. But also I think that it could be a scary time for some people [but] I think having something bigger than ourselves to focus on helped in that regard. There's all kinds of studies about people who have faith in their life and go to church, and believe in something bigger than themselves, that tend to get through tragedies and hard times better. That's always been what we rely on.
How would you describe your parenting style?
If you ask my teenagers, they would say I'm pretty strict. I don't think I'm that strict, but they do of course. I would say I don't sweat a lot of small things and that I am a stickler about neatness and organization just because when there are a lot of people in the house I have a hard time functioning if everything's just crazy. So [my kids] call me OCD. I don't care. I have my house and my space, [I need it to] be liveable for me. And I spend a lot of time at home, especially during the COVID. I had a home studio put into my basement so I wasn't traveling anywhere. I spend a lot of time at home, so I like my home to be neat. And the kids probably get really annoyed about that.
[But] I definitely think [chores] prepares them better for the future, to be better roommates in college, to be a better spouse. So I think those are important life skills and I feel no guilt about chores, delegating the upkeep of the house and the things that have to be done as a family. I think it teaches teamwork, cooperation and if I see my kids complain, I just go “OK, too bad, my house.”
Video: Getting to know the Duffy family
You are a working mom with your new position on Fox & Friends Weekend. How have balanced your new role with being a parent?
Filling in a lot on that show through the years, I have had a taste of doing it for stretches at a time, but it is definitely an adjustment. So we're just kind of taking it one day at a time and seeing how I like it. And if I have to adjust where I live because it's not working for the family, we'll just adjust. But all in all, it's been so much fun.
It's the number one cable news morning show in the country, so that's exciting and [the four hours] just flies by because [my] co-hosts are absolutely the funnest two guys to hang out with. And that's what we do. We just hang out for four hours and talk about politics or culture. We just have a blast and I can't believe I get paid to do this.
Any advice for other working moms out there?
My career has been very stop-and-go because I've taken breaks from work to have babies and to devote my time to my family, so I could not have had this job earlier in my life. It's just kind of interesting how things work themselves out in God's time. And I've always put my family first and tried to work my career into that, and when it doesn't work, I've just stepped away from it. I've been lucky to be able to come back and obviously it's not a scenario that everyone can follow. But I do think that the silver lining in the pandemic has been that time with their family has caused them to rethink how [they] want to balance their life, family and their work life.
You have talked about your daughter Valentina, who has Down syndrome. How has the pandemic impacted her and her care?
In the middle of the pandemic, she had to have a very serious heart surgery, so that was a little bit crazy. And then when the summer came, when normally she might be starting to go into therapy, she wasn't because she was still recovering from the surgery and she was still very little. Into the fall, she began going into physical therapy and speech therapy, which is mainly just teaching her how to eat properly because she had had some difficulty with that, but she's doing really great.
For the most part, [the pandemic] has not impacted her ability to get therapies that she needs and so forth and I think she really benefits from being in a large family. She needs a lot of stimulation and she gets it through a lot of interaction with her siblings. Her siblings are all different ages; she interacts with them all in very different way, which I think is very good for her. And so she's doing fantastic. She's very playful, sweet [and] just an amazing addition to our family. And now we just can't imagine our lives without her. And we think about all the good that she's brought to her family. She's taught all of us a little bit more about patience, compassion and tolerance for people who have special needs and that the definition of what's perfect in our world is not accurate because it doesn't take into account people's soul and people's families.
I always joke because we're a large family we can't even agree on movie nights. Someone's always mad because they want to watch something and nobody else wanted to watch it, but the only thing we all agree on [is that Valentina] is pretty special. [But] the rights and the needs of those with special needs is something that defines us as a society. If we care about the most vulnerable among us, I think it says a lot about who we are as a country and as a people.
Why was it important for your husband to leave his political career behind to give Valentina the care that she needed?
I think a lot of people don't understand just how much work it takes to be a political family, especially in Congress, you have an election every two years. My husband was having to travel back and forth between D.C. every week, and we have nine kids [with] lots of needs. So we were already feeling the strain of that lifestyle and then when she came along, we didn't really know what to expect, [but] we just kind of took it as a sign from God. Like, maybe this is the limit for us. We've done almost a decade of service to our country, maybe it’s time for us to focus on our family more.
In the end, our first jobs are to be moms and dads and so that was a decision we made. It was really hard [and] we prayed a lot about it and we really struggled with the decision and weren't always on the same page about it. And as we sort of have more time away from the decision we [realize we] did make the right decision and it feels good right now. It doesn't mean that my husband won't go back into politics, but at that time not knowing what to expect or what [Valentina’s] needs were going to be, it felt like the right thing to do, especially since we were already feeling really pulled in a lot of different directions.
How do and your husband feel about allowing your kids to watch The Real World one day?
That's so funny because we've never been like, "Hey, let's sit down and watch it," but our oldest, who is now 21, I think she must've been either a freshmen in college or a senior in high school, she discovered that she could actually find [the episodes] on YouTube. And so she watched that and it was interesting. I think for her, it was fascinating because you don't usually get to see your parents in their 20s.You can see pictures usually or you might hear a story, but you don't get to see the first moment that your parents met captured on video, so it it's an interesting situation. There are definitely some things that have been thrown back in my face. There's no question about that, but it's part of our love story.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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